Where things stand in Iowa House district 89

Bleeding Heartland’s legislative campaign coverage has tended to focus on battleground districts. But next year, Democrats will have more open seats than usual in solid blue Iowa House or Senate districts.

Although those races won’t affect control of either legislative chamber, they could be important for the future of the Iowa Democratic Party. Lawmakers from safe seats may rise to leadership positions at the statehouse or run for higher office someday. So I intend to keep a close eye on contested primaries in some districts that won’t be competitive in November.

One such race is shaping up in Iowa House district 89, where long-serving State Representative Mary Mascher announced last month that she will not seek re-election. Three Democrats are actively campaigning here. The newest contender, Tony Currin, will take several advantages into the primary.

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Abdul-Samad likely to be Iowa's longest-serving Black legislator

State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad will seek a ninth term in the Iowa House, he announced on Facebook on December 19. He said he decided to run for re-election in House district 34 following “deep thought” and conversations with many constituents of all ages.

Abdul-Samad will be heavily favored in next year’s election. If he wins in 2022, he will become the longest-serving of the nineteen Black Iowans who have served in the state legislature since 1965. Former State Representative Helen Miller represented the Fort Dodge area for sixteen years before retiring in 2018.

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Srinivas, Bagniewski running for Iowa House seats in Des Moines

The Iowa House Democratic caucus is poised to have more turnover than usual after the 2022 election, as the new legislative map created open seats in some solid blue areas, and several sitting lawmakers have confirmed they won’t seek re-election.

In Des Moines, Megan Srinivas and Sean Bagniewski are the first Democrats to begin campaigning in two House districts where the winner of the June primary is virtually guaranteed to be elected next November.

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"Vaccine Hunter" Todd Brady running for Iowa Senate in Ankeny

A Democratic challenger has emerged in the Iowa Senate district now represented by Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, the upper chamber’s top Republican since 2018. Todd Brady announced on July 21 that he’ll run for the seat in Ankeny, a growing suburb to the north of Des Moines.

Brady has a computer science degree from Iowa State University and is best known as the creator of the Vaccine Hunter website, where thousands of Iowans scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations when appointments were scarce in the late winter and spring. Disclosure: in April, that website helped me find an appointment for my older son.

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Classroom meddling in Iowa can’t go unanswered

Bruce Lear on how a new law banning certain “specific defined concepts” in diversity training could affect Iowa teachers. -promoted by Laura Belin

Yes, it’s been a horrible, terrible, very bad year for public schools in Iowa. As usual, the Republican-controlled Iowa legislature underfunded schools. Also typical for them, they tried again to pass a voucher law to give public money to private schools. 

When that didn’t work, they passed “vouchers lite”: a mostly unregulated, for-profit charter school law, that will no doubt siphon money from the already underfunded public system, and that could leave rural Iowa as an education desert.

What wasn’t quite as typical was the legislature’s meddling in the classroom.

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Greater Heights

Ira Lacher ponders growing diversity and anti-immigration sentiment.

I’m coming down off an incredible high — not from a substance I ingested but from a substance I viewed, specifically In the Heights, director John Chu’s cinematic interpretation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony Award-winning musical about the dwellers of the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan in New York City.

Many of those residents, and the actors, actresses, and dancers who portray them, are descended from Latino immigrants. Movies being what movies are, all of them display an energy that derives strength from their ancestry, whether from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Ecuador, or other.

But regardless of “cinema o-verite,” that energy from the actual residents is real, and is pure American; the energy of hope, anticipation, and freedom.

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